Development - Kieboom & García Edition:
Washington’s Nationals committed to a reboot of the organization with their fire sale at the July 30th trade deadline, and some of their younger players are now getting an opportunity to grow at the major league level, with manager Davey Martinez tasked with overseeing the development of pieces the club expects to play a big role on the next competitive team.
Earlier this week, the fourth-year skipper was asked what he’d want to see from young guys like Carter Kieboom and Luis García before he’d moe them up into heart or top of the order from the bottom where they’ve spent most of their time in the major league lineup.
Kieboom, 23, has been hitting 6th or 7th in the order for the most part, and over the last 12 games he’s shown signs of being the type of player he looked like he was on his way up in the minors, with a .310/.375/.476 line, a double and two home runs in 48 plate appearances over that stretch, going into Thursday’s doubleheader.
García, 21, has been hitting 6th or 7th as well, and going into the first game of the twin bill with the New York Mets in Citi Field on Thursday afternoon, he was on a nice little run over the last six games, with a .304/.333/.696 line three doubles, and two home runs over that stretch.
If they continue to produce like that, consistently, will Martinez move them up? What does he need to see, and where does he see them fitting?
“For Garcia it’s just about knowing the strike zone for him, what balls he’s really good at hitting,” the manager explained.
“He needs to start accepting his walks. Right now, he goes up there and I know he can hit, he’s got good bat-to-ball skills, but we want to see him accept his walks and not go up there swinging.
“Perfect example: The other day he had a 3-1 count, it was a ball, and he went up there, and just because it was a 3-1 count he got overly aggressive, which a lot of young hitters do, and he swung at a bad pitch. We want him to take those pitches and work on getting on base.”
“I think that he can hit in the top of the order one day,” Martinez added.
“But right now we just want to get him comfortable and get him to continue to swing the bat the way he’s doing. He’s showed a lot more pop so far than he has in the past, so we want to get him comfortable.
“Kieboom is doing a lot better this time around.
“He’s a guy where I know he’s being aggressive, but he’s aggressive in the strike zone, but I like him hitting in the middle of our order. I think he’s a guy that can potentially drive in runs for us.”
Mason Thompson’s One To Grow On:
Mason Thompson, 23, tossed 2 2⁄3 scoreless in his first three appearances with the Nationals following his trade from the San Diego Padres (along with infielder Jordy Barley for reliever Daniel Hudson back at the trade deadline ), but he got in a bit of trouble in his fourth appearance.
Thompson gave up a leadoff double on a 98 MPH 1-1 sinker to New York Mets’ third baseman J.D. Davis, then the sinkerballing right-hander (who has thrown sinkers 97.1% of the time in 2021), threw one by first baseman Josh Bell after fielding a bunt by Jonathan Villar, allowing the tying run to score on the error after he took the mound with a 7-6 lead.
Villar took second on the throwing error, moved to third on a groundout by James McCann, and scored on a soft line drive to center field by Brandon Drury that just cleared the infield, 8-7 Mets.
Thompson talked after the appearance about moving on from the outing quickly.
“For me,” he said, “... it’s going to be to try to wipe the slate clean as soon as possible and just get out there the next time and get after it and compete. It’s tough, especially when the team puts you in a position to win a game there, and you don’t come through, but you’ve got to have a short memory, especially being in the bullpen, so I’ll try to get past this as quickly as possible and get on to the next one.”
Before the first game of two in Citi Field on Thursday, his manager talked about what he’d like to see from Thompson, and what he’d be watching for the next time he sent him back out there.
“Yeah, I just want to see how he bounces back after he struggles,” Martinez explained.
“Like I said, for me it was just the one hit to Davis, the double to lead off, but he made some good pitches. I watched some of his pitches yesterday. He jammed some pretty good hitters. Just the bunt was what caused the havoc, but he got beat by a guy who hit a ball 54 MPH. But he made some really good pitches and I talked to him last night after the game and told him, ‘Hey, keep your head up, I thought you did well,’ other than the throw to first base, he pitched well, and he learned.
“I talked to him about the pitch to Davis and he said he didn’t want to throw the ball down and away, he wanted to kind of get it up and in and just a ball that he pulled and I thought that was good, that he understands what he wants to do, so I said, ‘You’re going to get another opportunity today, so be ready.’”
Gray vs ATL Round 2:
Josiah Gray gave up four hits and two runs (one earned) in five innings on the mound in Atlanta last weekend, striking out 10 of the 22 batters he faced in a 3-2 win for the Nats.
Gray, 23, talked after the outing about being happy to do what he did against a talented team.
“Obviously that’s a really accomplished team,” he said.
“And I think I line up against them in my next start, so I just want to build off this and make sure that next start is just as good and I’m making my pitches.”
He’s lined up to start tonight’s series opener with the Braves, though Davey Martinez did not commit to that going into yesterday’s doubleheader in Citi Field.
“We haven’t decided that yet,” he said when asked if he’d named a starter. “[Gray is] actually ready, but we’ll see. I’m going to talk to [Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey, talk to Jo-Jo, like I said, we’ve been keeping a very close eye on Josiah, and we want to keep building him up. So, I’m going to talk to Hickey this morning and then we’ll line up our rotation for the next three days.”